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On the Disastrous Spread of Aestheticism in All Classes


Impetuously I sprang from bed,
Long before lunch was up,
That I might drain the dizzy dew
From day's first golden cup.


In swift devouring ecstacy
Each toil in turn was done;
I had done lying on the lawn
Three minutes after one.

For me, as Mr. Wordsworth says,
The duties shine like stars;
I formed my uncle's character,
Decreasing his cigars.

But could my kind engross me? No!
Stern Art--what sons escape her?
Soon I was drawing Gladstone's nose
On scraps of blotting paper.


Then on--to play one-fingered tunes
Upon my aunt's piano.
In short, I have a headlong soul,
I much resemble Hanno.

(Forgive the entrance of the not
Too cogent Carthaginian.
It may have been to make a rhyme;
I lean to that opinion).


Then my great work of book research
Till dusk I took in hand--
The forming of a final, sound
Opinion on _The Strand_.

But when I quenched the midnight oil,
And closed _The Referee_,
Whose thirty volumes folio
I take to bed with me,

I had a rather funny dream,
Intense, that is, and mystic;
I dreamed that, with one leap and yell,
The world became artistic.

The Shopmen, when their souls were still,
Declined to open shops--


And Cooks recorded frames of mind
In sad and subtle chops.


The stars were weary of routine:
The trees in the plantation
Were growing every fruit at once,
In search of a sensation.

The moon went for a moonlight stroll,
And tried to be a bard,
And gazed enraptured at itself:
I left it trying hard.

The sea had nothing but a mood
Of 'vague ironic gloom,'
With which t'explain its presence in
My upstairs drawing-room.


The sun had read a little book
That struck him with a notion:
He drowned himself and all his fires
Deep in the hissing ocean.

Then all was dark, lawless, and lost:
I heard great devilish wings:
I knew that Art had won, and snapt
The Covenant of Things.


I cried aloud, and I awoke,
New labours in my head.
I set my teeth, and manfully
Began to lie in bed.

Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing,
So I my life conduct.
Each morning see some task begun,
Each evening see it chucked.

But still, in sudden moods of dusk,
I hear those great weird wings,
Feel vaguely thankful to the vast
Stupidity of things.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

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